National Army Museum, Waiouru, New Zealand : Military History & Army War Museum

Rugby Hero Remembered

The National Army Museum was sad to learn of the recent passing of rugby playing legend, Stan Young, aged 90. Many staff were privileged to have met and got to know Stan a little after our Khaki and Black exhibition in 2011, what a gentleman, we will remember you.

Stan (Stanley Lake) Young should have been an All Black as he was an outstanding forward on the 1945-46 “Kiwis” tour of Britain and Europe however he suffered a back injury on the tour which impacted on his rugby career and in the end any ambition of playng for the All Blacks.

Stan started his career in the far north, near Kaikohe (Punakitere) and played rugby at Kaikohe District High School along with his good mate and fellow “Kiwi”, the great centre Johnny Smith (who would go on to play for the All Blacks and New Zealand Maori in the late 40’s and early 50’s).

In fact, when Stan started his first day at high school, it was Johnny Smith who said Stan could stick with him on his first day. With regards to rugby, Stan’s first taste of the game saw him placed out on the wing and he would go on to score a ‘bucket-load’ of tries playing outside Smith.

Stan would not change from playing in the backs until he joined the army and was stationed at Trentham Camp in 1943. The coach of the Trentham Army team was Cliff Porter, captain of the 1924 “Invincibles” and he felt that the 6ft 1in, 15-stone Young would be a great loose forward. He was right, as Stan not only found a place in the Wellington team but he was also selected for the NorthIsland.

Stan also played for the North Island Army team before heading overseas toEgypt, voluntarily dropping in rank to do so. At Maadi Camp, he served as a weapon’s instructor, playing rugby when he could. He then transferred to 27 Battalion and went into action.

At the end of the war, Corporal Stan Young was in Italy and after a series of trials, Stan Young was selected as a loose forward/lock in the 2NZEF team (the “Kiwis”). He played 19 games, including four internationals on tour, scoring six tries and impressing with his general play and pace.

The back injury he suffered in Neath flared up towards the end of the tour and saw Stan receiving treatment in St George’s Hospital, Hyde Park and taking up rowing on the Serpentine to relieve the pressure.

When Stan returned to New Zealand, he headed back to Kaikohe but broke his finger scoring a try in a club game. This would put him out of the short “Kiwis”New Zealand tour but he did recover and his back injury eased enough for him to play for North Auckland in 1946, including the 32-19 defeat of Australia.

The following year was a good one for Stan. He played a full programme of rugby for North Auckland and he was viewing the 1948 trials and possible All Black selection for South Africa in ’49 however his back gave him further trouble and he knew his rugby career was over.

Fred Allen, the captain of the 1949 All Blacks lamented the fact Stan Young didn’t make the tour as a man of his experience could have made a difference.

The extent of Stan’s back injury meant he had to give up the farm however a chance meeting with an old army mate led Stan to change his career and join the Ministry of Transport with ‘postings’ to Te Awamutu, Nelson and Wellington, where his final years of service were as superintendent of the Ministry of Transport.

For his years of dedication and effectiveness in the job, Stan was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). In his retirement in Upper Hutt, Stan got busy clearing an expanse of overgrown reserve land and after several years, he levelled the ground, sowed grass seed, and today a large area is a neatly trimmed lawn surrounded by bush – land signposted as ‘Stan Young Park’.

The National Army Museum was very grateful to have recently donated Stan’s wonderful personal scrapbook and photo album of his 1945-46 Kiwis rugby tour .